I don’t know about Oscars, but I am happy, says Belli from ‘The Elephant Whisperers’

Elephants are like our children, we see it as great service to a child, who lost its mother, says Belli, from 'The Elephant Whisperers'.


Published Mar 13, 2023 | 2:06 PMUpdatedMar 13, 2023 | 2:07 PM

The Elephant Whisperers

“I do not know about the Oscar award,” was Belli’s response to The Elephant Whisperers winning honours at the 95th Academy Awards, but the documentary’s “leading lady” loves being a “Valarppu Thaai” (foster mother) for abandoned young pachyderms.

“Elephants are like our children, we see it as great service to a child, who lost its mother,” says Belli, who was featured in The Elephant Whisperers. It won the award for Best Short Documentary at the Oscars on Monday, 13 March.

Admitting that she did not know about the award, Belli however, said she was excited to receive the wishes, which were pouring in.

Related: ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ wins in the Best Documentary Short category

‘Treated elephants like my own children’

“I have reared many such elephants, treated them like my own children, looking after them as a foster mother (valarppu thaai), particularly those who lose their mothers in the jungle,” Belli told PTI.

She further said, “This was in our blood, as our ancestors were also working like that, as described by our grandmother, who comes from a mahout family”.

Belli quipped on the documentary winning an Oscar, “I do not know about the award. But I am very happy and excited as congratulations are pouring in.”

Asked about her ‘hero and husband’ Bomman in the documentary, she said that he had gone to Salem to bring an elephant with a serious problem and was eagerly waiting to serve the new arrival.

Related: ‘Naatu Naatu’ from RRR wins an Oscar, a first for an Indian song

The couple works as mahouts at Theppakkadu elephant camp in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in The Nilgiris district and looks after the needs of jumbos.

The Elephant Whisperers, directed by Kartiki Gonsalves, in its 39-minute runtime, depicts an unbreakable bond between two abandoned elephant calves Raghu and Amu and their caretakers, Bomman and Belli.

Meanwhile, the Nilgiris Adivasi Welfare Association Secretary Alwas termed the award as a recognition of the traditional profession of the tribals.

Also Read: India at the Oscars: Few wins, many misses down the years

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